How do you know when you have more than just muscle pain in your back? Check out this guide to cervical spinal stenosis and common symptoms to watch for.
If you suffer from cervical spinal stenosis, just know that you aren’t alone. Nearly 500,000 Americans currently suffer from some form of spinal stenosis.
While this condition usually affects the population around 50 years of age, many others are younger that are suffering as well.
Spinal stenosis, especially cervical spinal stenosis, can be excruciatingly painful. As the space in your spine narrows, there is more pressure put on the nerves, which can feel unbearably uncomfortable.
So what is spinal stenosis, what does it look like, and what can you do to feel relief from it? The last thing you want to experience is putting your life aside because you cannot handle the pain.
Thankfully, we did some research and found out some answers. Keep on reading to learn more about cervical spinal stenosis, and how you can deal with it.
The benefits of chiropractic care treatments are that it can help to widen the space between the bones of the spine and the spinal cord within the narrowed spinal canal. This can help to relieve the tension within the tightened muscles, remove the pressure off the nerves, and correcting the displacement of the spinal nerves.
Let’s get started.
What Is Cervical Spinal Stenosis?
Cervical spinal stenosis occurs when the little spinal canal that hosts your nerves and spinal cord begins to narrow (stenosis). This creates compression in the spine and pinches the nerve roots or spinal cord.
This is an essential part of your nervous system, as it is the main connection of the entire body to your brain. There is no cure as of yet, but this can lead to other conditions and worsen if not treated or managed.
What Causes Spinal Stenosis?
For a majority of people, osteoarthritis is the main cause of cervical spinal stenosis, along with wear and tear such as arthritis.
As we age, the cartilage breaks down in between our bones, and the little disks (similar to a jelly donut) become flattened and no longer provide support.
When osteoarthritis occurs, the spinal ligaments thicken, bone spurs begin to develop, and there is tremendous pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
A few other causes of spinal stenosis include:
- Tumors that put pressure on the spinal cord.
- Trauma damages the area around the spine.
- Herniated disks, which causes the liquid (jelly in the donut) to seep out and presses on your spinal cord or nerves.
- Paget’s Disease, an occurrence where the bones grow excessively fragile and larger, which presses on the spinal cord and nerves.
- Spondyloarthritis, which is a type of arthritis that attacks the spine.
This typically occurs in older adults, primarily if you are over 50 years of age, female, have narrower bones, and have had previous trauma to the spine.
What Are the Symptoms of Cervical Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis may begin as pain in your neck or lower back, which can make it hard to make a diagnosis in the beginning. Eventually, there will be tingling sensations, numbing sensations, and pain down one or both legs.
Some other symptoms of spinal stenosis include:
- Difficulty standing up or walking: Due to the pressure on the spine when in an upright position.
- Sciatica pain: This is characterized by a pain in the buttocks that travels down either the left leg, right leg, or both.
- Foot drop: The pinched nerve causes weakness in the leg which leads to fibular nerve pain and eventually, the foot to drop.
- Incontinence: In a worst-case scenario, the function of the bladder and/or bowels may happen due to the weakened nerves in the area.
- Paralysis: Full inability to use one or both legs due to weakened nerves and pinched spinal cord.
The symptoms of spinal stenosis vary, so it is essential to see your general practitioner as soon as possible to begin diagnosis and treatment.
Besides symptoms, there are a few ways to test for spinal stenosis, including Computerized Tomography (CT scans), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), OR X-Rays.
How Do You Treat Cervical Spinal Stenosis?
There are many different types of treatments available for spinal stenosis, and it depends on your level of severity and pain.
Your doctor may immediately begin treating you with certain medications such as muscle relaxants, anti-seizure medications, or Naproxen.
These should only be a short term relief and not the full treatment, as these medications can lead to side effects.
Another great treatment is a corticosteroid injection such as prednisone into the spine, which again, is a great short term relief, but only numbs the pain and does not get to the root of the problem. There are also other injections like nerve-blockers, but again, they only provide blockage of pain-not a treatment.
Surgery is another option, including laminoplasty and laminectomy, which create a space in between the spinal bones so the inflammation can slow down. Surgery, however, should be a last resort option as it has many more risks than the other options.
Chiropractic Care and Physiotherapy
Chiropractic treatments can help to widen the space between the bones of the spine and the spinal cord within the narrowed spinal canal. This can help to relieve the tension within the tightened muscles, remove the pressure off the nerves, and correcting the displacement of the spinal nerves.
Make sure you make an appointment with a specialized spinal stenosis chiropractor to ensure you get the best results.
In some cases, you can lessen the symptoms of spinal stenosis just by changing your lifestyle.
Exercise can help you to strengthen the weakened muscles that surround the spine. This can also help improve your posture, which will help correct some imbalances in the spinal area.
Hot and cold therapy is also a great way to handle the inflammation in the spinal joint. Alternate between a very cold shower or ice bath and a heat pack on the spine.
Learn More About Cervical Spinal Stenosis
There you have it, everything there is to know about cervical spinal stenosis. What it is, how to identify it, and most importantly, how to treat it.
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